''The Middle,'' Jimmy Eat World's bouncy '02 smash, urged listeners to ''live right now.'' But on the gloomier follow-up to their platinum self-titled disc, quavering singer Jim Adkins sounds preoccupied with moments past. ''We still have our fun, or we had it once,'' he moans, Debbie Downer-style, on ''The World You Love.''
Are the guys who smuggled emo into TRL via cheery anthems now trying to drive the kids away with bleak dirges? Not quite. But the Arizona quartet has sacrificed some of the poppy immediacy of its previous album, instead reprising the expansive moodiness of the '99 cult fave Clarity (witness the pretty but droning ballad ''Drugs or Me'').
Louder moments, like the surging first single, ''Pain,'' suggest Jimmy aren't simply retreating, though; these songs sound supersized, ready to compete with Thursday in the arena-emo (arenemo?) stakes.
It's hard not to mourn the band's vanished power-pop, given cuts like the overwrought ''Night Drive,'' which approaches ''Your Body Is a Wonderland'' ickiness. But if Jimmy are in the middle of a long ride, Futures retains just enough tunefulness to keep us from jumping out of the car.